I remember the details like it was yesterday. They are ingrained in my memory, stamped and etched in a place of perpetual recall. While I do not remember my exact age, I estimate I was either in fifth or sixth grade. It was a weekend visit to my father’s house that first exposed me to the world of pornography.
I needed to use the bathroom. The main bathroom was occupied so I quickly ran into my father’s room to use his. Upon closing the door, there, sitting on top of the vanity was an open magazine. My eyes were instantly drawn to it; how could they not? While I did not take the liberty of flipping through its pages, I can recall every detail of what I saw that day, on those pages. That was 35 years ago, and if I close my eyes today, tomorrow, or three years from now, I will be instantly transported back to that day, to that bathroom, with that magazine.
I’d like to say that that was my first and last exposure to pornography, but it was not. There would be other instances at my father’s house, at a party, with a friend. I remember them all.
Some reading this may casually shrug their shoulders and say: “Kids will be kids. What’s the harm in seeing a “dirty” magazine or tawdry flick? It’s a natural curiosity. Everyone does it.” To you, to you I shake my head and wave my finger, for there is nothing casual or acceptable about pornography. Pornography is the portal to so much wrong; it is a gateway to a world of decay, dependence, and addiction. It ruins people, corrupts marriages, and shatters sacred relationships. It erodes trust and intimacy, and takes something that was meant for beauty and pleasure, and reduces it to something filthy and cheap.
I’ve seen it happen in the lives of friends. Pornography destroys.
And friends, pornography’s greatest target is our children. We are living in a society and a culture that grooms them to feast on it. Today, it is the privacy of pornography that is so destructive. In the day, there was a degree of discomfort in trying to acquire pornography. Maybe it was the staring, leering eyes of the cashier as you tried to purchase a magazine or rent a movie. Today each of us holds private portals that can instantly immerse us into a secret world. A world where no one needs to know of the darkness that we desire. Technology allows curiosity to give birth to addiction with relative ease. And if the industry can grab hold of our children in their youth, they will hold them captive as adults.
The destruction that pornography leaves in its wake is widespread. With addictive power on par with illicit drugs, pornography can take captive the minds of our children, leaving them at its mercy. They will fixate upon it, seek after it, step away from all that they love and know to be right just to satisfy their need. They will weave a web of deception and lies as they try to conceal, hide, and disguise their habit. With time, more will be needed to satisfy and many will likely be lead to a place of acting out the very things that they have seen.
Today I want to talk to my fellow parents. I want to encourage you to live in a place I call “Realsville”. I want you to set aside all of the pie-in-the-sky notions that you have about your children, and I want to invite you to look at the reality.
Statistics show that in reality most children will come into contact with pornography in their youth. Your child is included in that mix. They have not been issued an exemption or a pass. They are part of those statistics whether you like it or not. Our children who use computers throughout the day for various reasons, are one click away; one search word away; one visit with a friend away; one sleepover away from ushering pornography in.
“But my child would never…” And if you’ve uttered or thought that small phrase, then I am really talking to you.
No child is immune from the draw of pornography. None. No matter their intellect, their faith, their appearance. Male, female. Good grades, bad grades. Popular, unpopular. With faith, without. Trustworthy, untrustworthy. Good friends/not-so-good friends. Kind, unkind. Strong, weak. Head-screwed on straight, or not so much. Every single one of them is able and capable of being drawn in.
So, what are you doing about it? What are you doing to combat this issue with your children? Here are a few of my suggestions.
- Invest in a strong parental control program, and install it on every device (kids and adults alike). We have it set up to where I can block whole categories of sites, to where I can see every site that anyone on those devices has visited. I can see if they have attempted to access a blocked website. I can see every video they’ve watched, every word they have searched, every interaction they have had on social media. Intrusive? You better believe it is. Nearly every problem or instance of viewing pornography originates from a device with no parental controls, whether that be your device, your child’s device, or the device of a neighbor or friend.
- And for those of you who think that this is too much, I ask you this: If at the edge of your backyard there lay a steep drop off, a drop off that would cause injury or harm to your child should they meander there, would you leave it unguarded? Would you simply trust that because you told your child not to go there, they would listen and never venture over to peer over the edge? Do you believe that their curiosity would never draw them to the edge? Nonsense. You’d put up a fence or a wall to protect them.
Placing Limitations on Devices
- Use of devices is done in a trafficked area in the house. Most issues happen during alone time.
- No phones or devices in bedrooms, especially at night. We have a drop zone for devices at night.
- No phones at meals or at other times when we are together with family or other people. Place a priority on face-to-face time where people actually interact and talk…for real, not virtually.
- Question whether your child truly needs a phone or device with internet access. There are a lot of different feelings on this. I know that everyone (maybe besides my kids) has a phone. But remember, you know your child best. They will survive without one.
- When friends come over, devices/phones are dropped at the front door. Period. End of story.
- Lead by example and limit your time on devices, and adhere to the rules that you place on your children.
Be Mindful of What You Watch
- What shows are being watched? What movies are you indulging in? What message is in your music? What books are being read? Ask yourself what soft porn are you allowing into your home?
- Our children are literally bombarded in this area. From advertisements on the television and computer, to barely dressed women on the sidelines and in commercials, to billboards, and the back of buses, inappropriateness is simply the norm. And therein lies the problem. I’m not saying that every man or woman needs to be dressed in a turtleneck and ski pants, but there is no doubt modesty is a thing of the past. In reality, it’s always been a problem, but there is a constant onslaught in today’s culture and one can hardly turn around without facing it head on.
Talk, Talk, Talk to Your Kids
- Handing down orders will not be received well if they are not coupled with talking and discussing the whys behind the rules.
- Talk to your children about pornography. Talk about why it’s damaging and what the potential problems and consequences are. This talk goes hand-in-hand with God’s plan for sex and purity. If you are not having open, honest conversations with your children about sex, someone else will.
- Reassure your children that you will answer their questions without judging or yelling at them. Open the lines of communication and keep them open. Again, if you won’t answer their questions or if you shame them, your children will go elsewhere.
- Have these conversations with your children, check in on them, teach them God’s plan for purity, and acknowledge the real struggle with regularity. These are not one time talks; there must be open lines of communication and free flowing dialogue. There simply must be.
Teach Them God’s Plan for Purity
- God’s plan for purity and chastity is often mocked at in today’s world. People who advocate for living a pure, chaste life are jeered at and considered medieval prudes. Yet, they know something that most do not: sex was created by God to be an amazing and beautiful thing when experienced by a husband and wife within His perfect plan for marriage. Our teenagers need to know this. Sex is not bad or dirty. It’s a gift, that unwrapped at the right time, is good.
- God’s plan for purity protects them. It protects not only their bodies from disease, and untimely pregnancy, but it also protects their minds. As was stated above, sexual experiences are forever etched into our minds. We bring all of it into our marriages.
- God’s plan for purity protects others. God’s plan for sex has nothing to do with satisfying self first. To the contrary, we are supposed to be focused on our spouse, and they focused on us. When we acknowledge that sex is structured in this way as part of the marriage relationship, we must also acknowledge that all sexual activity outside of that is solely for self satisfaction.
- God’s plan for purity protects marriages. It keeps the marriage bed between husband and wife sacred.
- God’s plan for purity advocates respect. This involves three areas: respect for God’s plan for sex; respect for oneself, and respect for others so as not to use them as objects of exploitation.
- The reality is many have fallen short in this area. But the greater reality is that God forgives and no longer wants us to live in shame and guilt and regret. That is the beauty of salvation. Our sins are forgiven and wiped away, and we no longer need to walk around living life under the weight of our burdens and sinful pasts. We are redeemed.
- You may take every precaution listed above, and may even add a few of your own ideas. You may talk to your children, be open with them, secure devices, and present the plan for purity to them. You may very well be doing everything that you are supposed to. The reality is that your children may still falter and fall. And while we are called to diligently be their parents, we must realize that they are individuals wholly capable of making both the right and wrong decisions in life.
- Should your child falter and should you discover that they have an issue with pornography, jump to their side and in love, help them out of the hole. Love them unconditionally. Do not shame them. Help them to acknowledge their problem and get them help. Make them accountable. Put up safeguards. Get them into the Word. Remind them of their need for Christ. Remind them of the power of forgiveness that only comes from Him. Remind them that they can become a new creation where the old things are put behind them.